Poet, editor, translator, publisher, and recipient of Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize (2018) Kirti Sengupta, 44, with Hawakal Publishers, recently launched a compilation of his poems titled Rituals.
This is his 18th book in line after the ones he’s written, translated and edited. “Rituals is not only about poetry. It is about aesthetics — of literature and of life,” says Sengupta, refusing to take the self-glorification pathway. “Should I say how great the poems are or how exceptional the collection is? Just as in The Death of the Author, now it is up to the readers, scholars and critics to comment on my work. I’ll be happy to see them talking.”
Rituals combines human experience, observation, readings and some of the poet’s personal experiences. “Dr. Mosarrap H Khan, editor of Cafe Dissensus thinks that in Rituals, I’ve been ‘distilling wisdom from the dross of our daily life, a necessary condition for the possibility of poetry and living’. I’ll add to it: my poems inhabit a space between science and spirituality.
Like my poem, The Stepwell. Here the stagnant water in the baoli (stepwell at Purana Qila), which refuses entry of sunlight, awaits liberation. Stagnation equals death. How can we expect equality in a society that refutes free dissemination of knowledge? That’s how aphorism entered the realm of protest poems.”
Sengupta took a little over two years to complete the collection. Few of these poems had already been published in international journals such as The Florida Review Online (Aquifer) and Headway Quarterly. Sengupta is happy how his poems have been gorgeously illustrated. Like Masala Muri is illustrated with a lamp and a bowl of muri (dry puffed rice) to showcase his family’s struggles with power cuts during his growing years.
Two of the poems, The Untold Saga and Jesus, highlight sexual harassment of women. The former is about goddess Durga who never asked for a reward for defeating the evil that other gods failed to arrest. “This poem addresses the politics of society and policies in mythology. And of how a woman is considered incomplete if she isn’t legitimately connected to a man.” Sengupta also makes a point stating how Durga, despite being a mythological character is still worshipped, but Nirbhaya barely succeeded to create an awakening. “So worshipping a female deity has hardly altered the attitude towards women.
Then, Jesus is based on the incident in November 2017, where a four-year-old girl was allegedly abused by a male teacher in GD Birla School in Kolkata. It’s easy to mark this man as amoral or perverted, but what went into the making of his psyche? Societal stand on a man’s lifestyle needs thorough reassessing, but are women allowed to do that?”Other poems in the book cover nudity, voice of the youth and maturity to accept all forms of beauty.